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Monia Mazigh’s Hope Has Two Daughters, Eddy Weetaltuk’s From the Tundra to the Trenches, and Marianne Apostolides’s Deep Salt Water, reviewed

Hope Has Two Daughters
By Monia Mazigh, translated by Fred A. Reed Arachnide, 296 pages, $22.95

Monia Mazigh's latest novel takes readers through a cycle of hope, uprising, despair and hope again in a story of two girls awakened by civil unrest. Hope Has Two Daughters opens in 1984: Nadia nears completing her lycée studies when the bread riots rock Tunisia and rent the fabric of Nadia's stable but restrictive upbringing. Jump to 2010: Nadia's daughter Lila, born and raised in Ottawa, reluctantly takes a gap year to learn Arabic in Tunis. Lila is uninterested in her mother's city until she learns of a new protest movement ready to erupt. As Mazigh alternates between 1984 and 2010, both Nadia and Lila are in their late teens, both sheltered in their own way: Nadia by state repression and familial conservatism; Lila by her expectations from having grown up in a free society. Mazigh's narration is true to these characters: they're young and naive. It's in seeing Nadia in middle age that reveals the full significance of the Arab Spring.

From the Tundra to the Trenches
By Eddy Weetaltuk University of Manitoba Press, 280 pages, $24.95

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From the Tundra to the Trenches recounts the adventures of Inuk veteran Eddy Weetaltuk, from his early life in the North to his escape to the south under an assumed identity, to his enlistment in the Canadian Forces, which took him across the Canadian West, to Japan and Germany, and into battle in Korea. Adopting the name Eddy Vital was necessary in 1951 because the federal government restricted the movement of Inuit people. Through his alias, Weetaltuk was able to see the world; in the army, he experienced equality and respect – all the while never forgetting his true identity as an Inuk. The publication history of From the Tundra to the Trenches is itself a four-decades-long saga of many twists and turns. That it now finds English publication (after first appearing in French and German) owes to the author's conviction that his life story be read as a work of literature with the makings of a bestseller. Eddy Weetaltuk was right.

Deep Salt Water
By Marianne Apostolides, mixed-media collage by Catherine Mellinger BookThug, 120 pages, $20

"What is the language to talk of abortion?" Our fallbacks – rights and religion – are insufficient, too terrestrial, too hard and earthbound to describe pregnancy and its purposeful loss. A body carries a saltwater creature within itself: the language of pregnancy is the language of the sea. Marianne Apostolides's highly poetic memoir of a pregnancy, an abortion, a relationship's end and its attempted renewal 17 years later exemplifies this sea language, and not only in its allusions to sea creatures or the accompanying collages by Catherine Mellinger, which mix the female body with anemones, seahorses and seagrass. Deep Salt Water is intimate and sensual, tidal and saline – how can a book be tidal and saline? These words make sense within the environment of the book. Apostolides's language is not of pristine nature but of the anthropocene, our current geologic age of bleached coral and oceans choking on plastics. In light of man-made climate catastrophe, learning this language takes on added urgency.

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